In order to bake a good chocolate chip cookie, one needs flour, baking soda, butter, brown sugar, white sugar, vanilla extract, eggs and chocolate chips. Without any one of these ingredients, the cookie would in all likelihood taste as vulgar as my grandmother’s infamous gefilte fish (trust me: not a good experience). Lets say that for some reason, the eggs are the freshest in the city and the chocolate chips are better than usual, but the brown sugar, vanilla extract and baking soda are practically non-existent. That would make for a pretty fucking gross cookie.
Are NFL draft prospects not the exact same thing? Some attributes that make an NFL player good are speed, strength, poise, hand-eye co-ordination, awareness, height and agility. Just like our chocolate chip cookie, if only a couple of these attributes are above-average, and the rest are just mediocre, then the NFL player will not have a very successful career. This is why the NFL combine is useless, and General Managers who judge and draft players based on combine results are foolish.
The prime perpetrator of this over the past number of years has been none other than the Oakland Raiders’ erratic owner, Al Davis. In 2005, with the 23rd overall pick, he took cornerback Fabian Washington. Not coincidentally, Washington has recorded the fastest ever 40 yard dash time at 4.25 seconds. Washington played a couple decent seasons with Raiders, but did not amount to much. He was traded to the Ravens in 2008. The next year, Davis took DB Michael Huff 7th overall. Huff had recorded a time of 4.34, just .03 off the fastest time for a DB. Huff also had the best bench press numbers for a DB, at 21 reps. The following year, in a seeming trend, the Raiders had the 1st overall pick. If you are a Raiders fan, I can understand if you skip these next few lines. In what could be argued as the biggest draft bust EVER, the Raiders took QB Jamarcus Russell, who was astoundingly fast for his weight, and had a huge arm. Russell put on weight (I mean, a lot of weight. He weighs more than many of the offensive linemen protecting him. Thats a scary thought) and has since been cut. Now I can’t blame Davis for making this choice, as the Raiders desperately needed a QB, and Russell was widely regarded as the top QB of the draft. The other QB in this draft that was taken in the first round was Brady Quinn. Too bad neither could live up to their post-combine billing. In 2008, Oakland once again possessed a high first rounder, this time 4th overall. Halfback Darren McFadden had recorded the fastest 40 time, and shockingly enough, the Raiders selected him. D-Fad had a breakout season this past year, and is the only one of the Raiders past 6 draft picks that has worked out, at least up until now. 2009 came about, and the Raiders were looking for a wide receiver to jumpstart Jamarcus. maybe even a deep threat. So, with the seventh overall pick, Oakland took Darrius Heyward-Bey. DHB was maybe seen as the 3 or 4th best WR in the draft, behind Michael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin and Percy Harvin. Not only did DHB have the fastest 40 yard dash time, he also had the highest vertical. There were questions about his hands, but the Raiders took him anyway, thinking that he would be so fast that he could get wide open a few times again for a hail mary from Russell. So far, DHB has combined for 35 catches and not even 500 yards receiving. Jeremy Maclin on the other hand? 126 receptions, 1737 yards and 14 touchdowns. Al Davis and his Raiders have picked largely based on combine stats, taking the fastest player in the draft 3 of the past 5 years, and clearly, they are still not quite where they want to be. Of those 5 draft choices, one has worked out. All you have to do is look at the Raiders to know that if you draft mostly from the combine, it is bad news.
I will end this post with a small anecdote. The other day in class, my friend who just so happens to be a Raiders fan, was bored. I had my computer and was sitting in front of him. He suggested that I watch the combine to spice up the class. I asked him why I would want to watch that, and he blindly responded that “I guess its interesting. These players will be in the NFL next year”. I turned around and shook my head. Those Raiders fans will never learn.